Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) have asked GPs to refer patients to private practices if they have private health insurance, a report reveals.
NHS Mid Essex CCG told Pulse that it had seen a near six per cent increase in referrals to private healthcare since it wrote to practices asking them to “discuss with patients how they can use private insurance”.
It is also reported that NHS Basildon and Brentwood CCG have distributed posters to practices to advertise its scheme: “private Healthcare; another patient choice”. Rolled out in November 2015, the CCG said that the scheme is designed to cut costs.
However, GP bosses have warned that the scheme may lead to patients feeling “guilty” for using NHS services, and would promote health inequalities.
“A further unintended consequence will be that patients already lucky enough to live in an area where large numbers of people can afford private health insurance will gain compared to those in more deprived areas who already suffer worse health, so this is hardly a step towards reducing inequality”, said Dr Andrew Green, chair of the GPC’s clinical and prescribing committee.
A spokesperson for NHS Mid Essex CCG, currently one of the most financially challenged groups, said it had to “consider options for gaining maximum benefit from limited NHS resources”.
They added that they had seen an 5.75 per cent increase in referrals to private healthcare, compared to the same period in 2015.
Likewise, a spokesperson for NHS Basildon and Brentwood CCG said: “In order to meet our statutory obligations to balance our books we have had to consider all available ways to reduce costs.”